The effects of COVID-19 on abortion rights around the world

COVID-19 is affecting abortion rights around the globe. How? Stories to Action’s, Agnes Vinblad, highlights the impact.

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting all parts of society and all areas of healthcare, in every country. This means that the ongoing pandemic most definitely is having a serious impact on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and its related services in countries across all continents. Most concerning is perhaps the impact that the COVID-19 health crisis is having on abortion rights and access, as political leaders in some countries and in a  few states in the U.S, are taking advantage of the COVID-19 health crisis to rapidly push through new laws and limitations on abortion rights and access. 

Poland 

Poland already stands out when it comes to abortion access: as a nation, they have some of the most conservative abortion laws within the European Union. Now during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the conservative government in Poland is being called out for taking advantage of the current situation to pass legislation to further limit abortion rights in the country. Since social distancing guidelines are preventing people from organizing protests, political leaders in Poland are hoping to be able to pass these new laws without having to deal with public outrage from activists and women’s rights organizations. 

While women across the country are still finding creative ways to protest this new proposed bill without breaking social distancing rules, it is simply not as effective to launch protests online, as it is to be able to organize large-scale in-person protests. Additionally, Polish women are under increased financial stress right now due to COVID-19 related job losses. This is making it even harder for them to pay for travel arrangements to seek abortion care in other countries, additionally, most countries within the EU have imposed strict travel bans to limit the spread of COVID-19. This is putting additional stress on women looking to leave the country to be able to access abortions.

The United States

As this article is being written, more than six U.S. states have imposed abortion bans based on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Among these states, you can find Arkansas, Tennesse, and, Ohio. The strategy used by political leaders in these states is the same: the new laws wrongfully argue that abortion is not an essential service, and therefore should not be available during COVID-19. Across the country, these laws are being fought through lawsuits. For example, in Tennesse, a federal judge barred the state from not providing abortion access during the ongoing health crisis. These attempts to rule abortion care as non-essential are being called out as a way to weaponize COVID-19 to permanently limit abortion access within these states.

Global Impact

These are just two examples of how COVID-19 is impacting access to abortion. It is important to know that the impact is global and not limited to impacting Poland and the United States. For example, the organization Marie Stopes International has warned that as many as 9.5 million women globally might be denied services related to family-planning due to the impact of COVID-19. 

While these statistics are devastating, it is important to keep a fighting spirit and continue to engage in conversations related to abortion access, especially now during the COVID-19 crisis. We urge young people around the world to speak up and to share their own stories and experiences regarding access to abortion care during this time. Together, we can unite to ensure that abortion care, and all services related to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, remains accessible to all people who need them. These are most definitely essential services, especially during a pandemic.

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